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All Eyes on Kuala Lumpur Despite Obama Cancellation

Jonathan Ortmans

Today I am headed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a government-convened gathering of entrepreneurs and their supporters focused on advancing entrepreneurship in Muslim-majority countries. Although U.S. President Barack Obama had to cancel at the last minute due to the federal government shutdown, Secretary of State John Kerry is representing the U.S. Government and it promises to be no less of an important week for policy wonks, entrepreneurs and program leads keen on knowledge creation.

While there is much happening in Kuala Lumpur this week, my prime interest is with the Policy Roundtable on Saturday, October 12, that is being organized by the Kauffman Foundation in association with Malaysia’s SME Corporation and Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC). The idea behind it is to encourage the policymakers and entrepreneurship supporters gathering in Kuala Lumpur to explore the best ideas in policymaking to support new firm formation. The Policy Roundtable will continue a discussion that started at the GEC Policy Summit during the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year. Following this latest installment of the dialogue, the Kauffman Foundation will lead the creation of a white paper to be released at the next policy meeting when 140 nations are represented at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Moscow on March 17-20, 2014.

Before I participate in these important policy events this week, I will join the people that we are all about helping, the entrepreneurs themselves. In the lead up to Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance launching the Summit on October 11, entrepreneurs will meet for various satellite events and I will take part in the launch of various entrepreneur-led initiatives that have spun out of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).

One of those is the Global Startup Youth (GSY) on October 8-10 that will bring promising young web developers, designers and coders together to make global connections, form teams and get mentored by more than 100 rock star entrepreneurs. Organized by GEW local host and StartupMalaysia.org’s co-founder, ‘Dash’ Balakrishnan, GSY will be a three-day intensive competition for more than 500 youth (mainly those aged 18 to 25) from around the globe interested in developing ventures that offer solutions to solve real societal problems. It will be a powerful bootcamp that will culminate with pitching sessions in front of an anticipated 3,000 participants to the main GES event, including investors as well as Secretary of State Kerry and other top government officials.

According to a Digital News Asia report, GSY is not what Dash wants to talk about first when it comes to this exciting week in his country.

“To him, the event is just the fourth chapter in the startup story that he likes to think began circa 2008 when he organized the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in Malaysia…Dash feels that the initial GEW was a catalyst for many more entrepreneur events being held in Kuala Lumpur today.” Those include D-Code camp, Silicon Valley Comes to Malaysia, the very Startup Malaysia initiative, and the new Startup Nations initiative. In fact, the GSY gathering in Kuala Lumpur is a beta concept that will be also built upon at the GEC in Moscow next March.

Alongside GSY, I will also join a meeting of the Startup Nations, which is a network I helped cofound including program leaders from 30 countries. Participants were selected based on track record, vision and the impact potential of each program. This first closed-door meeting, emceed by GEW Global Board member and StartupMalaysia.org co-founder Rebeca Hwang, will feed into a broader network of policymakers focusing on policies to support startups in their governments.

All these activities and other new initiatives that will launch in Kuala Lumpur point to a maturing collection of efforts—sophisticated public-private efforts (e.g. Startup Nations); methodically mapping entrepreneurship ecosystems (e.g. the World Startup Report and the Startup Genome whose representatives will be present at GES); deep analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses and gaps (the new Kauffman-led global research network); and better-targeted global initiatives to help fill to that gap (e.g. Global Startup Youth). 

The world is embracing entrepreneurs and these initiatives aim to help them. Initiatives like Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) laid the groundwork for these new projects—at the grassroots as well as policy levels—by making a now uncontested case that entrepreneurship is the most efficient and sustainable fuel for economic growth. GEW leaders in each country seeded the grassroots revolution that begins a new chapter this November 18-24, 2013, in which these new trends in the entrepreneurship field will be more obvious to all. For example, a new Global Entrepreneurship Week Policy Survey will be featured at events across the globe that give government officials and entrepreneurs the opportunity to further refine priorities.  

While my week in Kuala Lumpur has just started, it is obvious from what lies ahead, from now until March, that better tools and data will guide new and improved top-down and bottom-up initiatives to unleash the full potential of entrepreneurial thinking. Don’t miss your chance to witness them first hand in the next few months.

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